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  • Satellite Evolution

ThinKom multi-band antenna terminals selected for critical military airborne program

ThinKom has secured a major production contract for an airborne, multi-band, conformal antenna solution to support a military partner. Initially funded as a development contract, the offering takes advantage of ThinKom’s patented Variable Inclination Continuous Transverse Stub (VICTS) architecture, widely in use for commercial in-flight connectivity. VICTS technology is well proven as an agile, reliable solution in extreme conditions.

The conformal design of ThinKom's latest antenna solution allows for maintaining top performance metrics with no visible indications on the aircraft exterior

The design of ThinKom’s VICTS antenna allows full performance of the system even while mounted below the fuselage surface. This conformal design results in a radome that is flush with the aircraft skin, preserving low drag characteristics to maintain extended time on station. The conformal radome also obscures the presence of satcom equipment on the aircraft. Despite being cavity mounted, the antenna system acquires and tracks satellites even at extremely low elevation angles, while maintaining high spectral efficiency. “The stabilized beam of the VICTS antenna delivers high performance over very wide instantaneous channel bands and requires substantially less prime power than electronically steered antennas (ESAs), while providing higher spectral efficiencies and significantly better high-latitude performance” said Bill Milroy, chairman and CTO of ThinKom Solutions. “In a world where ESAs are frequently marketed as the ideal solution, our VICTS platform continues to be chosen by the most demanding customers to provide the most reliable and high performing phased array antenna for their mission needs.” Beyond the ability to embed VICTS antennas below the skin of the aircraft, the ThinKom solution provides several other key differentiators that resulted in ThinKom being awarded the production contract. ThinKom’s offering delivers high spectral efficiency with relatively low power consumption. Competing ESAs consume significantly more power than a VICTS antenna, requiring complex and heavy liquid cooling systems. When considered in totality, the ThinKom approach increased reliability while reducing weight, power and complexity. The end-user required independent K- and Ka-band connectivity links. ThinKom’s VICTS architecture delivers that via standalone transmit and receive antennas. ThinKom has also developed a Q-band antenna as a potential future upgrade which can be added to the existing solution or replace one of the existing antennas. The multi-band, conformal antennas can be independently pointed to different satellites, and can be mounted in separate locations on the aircraft, as the antenna controller functionality is built into each antenna. This architecture greatly enhances the pointing accuracy of each antenna, while also reducing the overall weight of the system by eliminating a centralized antenna controller and interconnect cables.

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